The state government’s policy of auctioning lands recovered from encroachments in and around Bangalore to mobilise resources for development works has turned one more avenue for real estate sharks and land grabbers to pocket precious lands with ease at unbelievably low prices.
The Task Force for Recovery and Protection of Government Lands headed by V Balasubramanian, in its report submitted to state government, has blown the lid off the murky auctioning process which is ridden with loopholes from calling for bids to handing over of lands to favour vested interests.
The task force has recommended stopping the auctioning process and preparing a master plan identifying vacant lands to reserve them for public purpose.
Take this instance, for example, in which task force report draws government’s attention to a provision for exchange of land in favour of a bidder, which has been violated with impunity. Yousuf Sharief was the successful bidder for 12 acres 24 guntas of land at Kithaganur village of Bangalore East Taluk for a price of Rs4.94cr at the rate of Rs40 lakhs per acre. However, only five acres and 37 guntas could be handed over to him due to agitation by local farmers against the auctioning.
But Sharief was also the highest bidder for a nine-acre and 20 guntas of land near Doddajala near Bangalore International Airport. The land was divided in nine blocks, of which he won the bid for four while the rest five were won by other bidders at the rates of Rs76 lakh/acre and Rs77 lakh/acre, respectively.
Surprisingly, the revenue department cancelled the auction on the grounds that the value offered by the bidders was very low, and a re-auctioning was called.
However, the reauctioning —scheduled for September 16, 2009—was cancelled without explanation. So, Sharief requested the government to give him the four blocks of land at Doddajala, which he had initially won in auction, in exchange for the land he was deprived of in Kithaganur village due to farmer agitation.
The Doddajala land was then given to him at Rs60 lakh per acre against the market value of Rs90 lakh per acre—a huge loss—despite objections from the then managing director of Karnataka Public Lands Corporation.
The auctioning should actually be kept free of GPA holders and benami representatives. But when the entire process was reviewed, 283 acres were found going in favour of Sharief who was the GPA holder for five companies. He is thus the single largest beneficiary from the auctioning .
The advertisements, ahead of the auctioning, to call for participants in the process, too, were found placed only in two local dailies rather than the national print and TV media, which is the auctioning norm for nationwide publicity.